Published on Jan 10, 2014
A growing number of people in West Virginia have been told not to drink, wash or cook using tap water after an industrial leak.
Up to 300,000 people in West Virginia have been banned from using tap water after a chemical spill in a river, which has also forced schools, bars and restaurants to close.
The state's governor has declared a state of emergency in nine counties following the industrial leak, leading to queues for bottled water.
Residents in a growing number of affected areas have been told not to drink, wash or cook with the tap water and only use it for flushing toilets.
Laura Jordan, external affairs manager for West Virginia American Water, said: "It could be potentially harmful if swallowed and could potentially cause skin and eye irritation."
The spill of of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, a chemical used in the coal industry, into the Elk River happened above a water treatment plant in Charleston - the largest in West Virginia - and affects 100,000 homes and businesses.
In a statement, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said: "West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged not to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing.
"Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools."
Mr Tomblin said his office was working with the National Guard and the state's Office of Emergency Services to provide water supplies as quickly as possible.
According to West Virginia American Water, the pollution came from a Charleston firm, Freedom Industries.
Authorities were alerted by reports of an odour, described as being like black liquorice, and officials found a leaking storage unit at the site.
Tests are being conducted on the water.
No one at Freedom Industries was immediately available for comment.
On its website, the company describes itself as a producer of specialty chemicals for the mining, steel and cement industries.
There have been no immediate reports of illnesses from the spill.
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